A new Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals (OMHA) website offers intel on reimbursement appeal status, but does little to speed up the appeal process or eliminate the current backlog. It does, however, provide useful documentation, and DME suppliers should consider the impact of the delay on Section 935 interest.
OMHA just unveiled a new website to enable suppliers to monitor their ALJ appeals. The ALJ Appeals Information System (AAIS) website allows users to check the status of filed Medicare reimbursement appeals. OMHA also created a listserv to provide updates to suppliers regarding the Medicare appeals process, special initiatives, pilot programs, website updates, and other information pertinent to appeals. Users can register for the listserv here. The AAIS website is another effort to reform the criticized Medicare reimbursement appeals process, and comes on the heels of two recent programs designed to process ALJ hearings more efficiently and clear the current backlog: the Part B Settlement Conference Facilitation Pilot Program and the Statistical Sampling Initiative.
The AAIS website can offer suppliers official appeal status data which can be useful to facilitate other actions. For example, suppliers facing recoupment and referrals to the Treasury Department for collection have had difficulty obtaining official proof from OMHA that the ALJ appeal is on file (oftentimes resorting to the delivery confirmation as proof). The status report from the new website can be used to provide clear proof the appeal was filed and received, and can then be used to reverse an involuntary collection action taken by the Treasury Department.
The AAIS website offers suppliers the following status information:
Despite the website’s weekly updates, supplier appeal status will not be available until the case is uploaded into OMHA’s tracking system, a process that takes least 4 months from the date the supplier files the appeal, according to OMHA. (Beneficiary-filed appeals receive priority and will be available online within a week of filing.) In addition, the website will not offer status on appeals that were decided or otherwise closed for 180 days, or appeals for which the supplier has requested settlement through CMS.
Moreover, there is no expectation the system will speed up the appeals process (though ideally OMHA staff can devote more time to processing appeals instead of fielding appeal status queries). Appeals will still need to be assigned to an ALJ and scheduled before a decision is issued.
As of December 2014, OMHA has a backlog of nearly 1 million appeals, and the average supplier waits approximately two years for a decision to be issued. This delay has created significant strategic decision making opportunities for suppliers with regard to Section 935 interest calculations, particularly since over 42% of appealed claims received fully favorable ALJ rulings last year. Section 935 allows a successful supplier to receive interest accrued during the appeal waiting period if CMS involuntarily recoups the alleged overpayment on appeal.
Despite the ALJ backlog, the AAIS does offer suppliers another element of transparency. While the ALJ appeals process can be aggravating and inefficient, suppliers hope OMHA continues to reduce the appeal backlog and meet its legislatively mandated processing deadlines.